The Australian Council on Smoking and Health has today called on all Australian governments to urgently introduce new legislation to prohibit the sale, supply and promotion of e-cigarettes to children and young people.
The Australian National University has today released the most comprehensive review to date on the health effects of e-cigarettes that shows non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are three times as likely to go on to smoke tobacco cigarettes, supportive of a “gateway” effect.
“Schools across Australia are being swamped by e-cigarettes causing great concern for school principals, teachers, and parents,” said Maurice Swanson, ACOSH Chief Executive.
“Relying solely on education and information will not stop the supply and promotion of these products.”
“A comprehensive approach including new legislation to prohibit the sale, supply and promotion of these dangerous, addictive nicotine delivery devices especially on social media platforms is required.
“Today’s authoritative report from ANU, commissioned by the Australian Department of Health, is the latest in a series of reviews of the evidence that clearly demonstrates how dangerous e-cigarettes are for children and young people, and their widespread use risks re-normalising smoking across our community.
“Australia has been a world leader in reducing smoking, but the use of e-cigarettes now threatens this major public health achievement.
“In Australia, nicotine e-cigarettes are legal only on prescription, for the purpose of smoking cessation.
“Unfortunately, this change has not stemmed the flow of e-cigarettes to students in our schools – more urgent regulatory action is essential,” Mr Swanson said.
Other major findings of the ANU evidence review include:
- Identified risks of e-cigarettes such as addiction; intentional and unintentional poisoning; acute nicotine toxicity, including seizures; burns and injuries; lung injury; indoor air pollution; environmental waste and fires; dual use with cigarette smoking; and increased smoking uptake in non-smokers.
- The vast majority of people quitting smoking successfully do so unaided.
- There is limited evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are an effective aid for quitting smoking.
- Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking is likely to lead to greater long-term exposure to nicotine compared to approved Nicotine Replacement Products.
- Overall, e-cigarettes are harmful for non-smokers, especially children and young people, when used for purposes other than smoking cessation.
Smoking remains Australia’s leading cause of preventable death and disability, responsible for over 20,000 deaths annually, and 8.6% of disability-adjusted life-years lost. Smoking has been estimated to cause over 8 million preventable deaths each year worldwide.
“E-cigarettes and other new, novel and addictive nicotine delivery devices such as heated tobacco products have the potential to undermine one of Australia’s greatest public health achievements over the last 40 years.
“These products are being relentlessly promoted by Big Tobacco and its front groups.
“Australian governments need to take action now to stop these products being available to children and young people,” said Mr Swanson.